Review by Keith

BOOKSURFERS: 1 : TREASURE ISLAND by David Gatward

This is a fantastic idea and, in a way, makes author David Gatward the Jamie Oliver of kids’ fiction, by encouraging them to read more stuff that’s good for them.

A very clever use of modern technology (as the Booksurfers series is only in ebook format) what we have here is the modern day equivalent to what I loved as a kid (the choose your own adventure books) as the reader can choose as and when they want to dip in and out of the new story and into the original text of Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island.

Ever wondered what it would be like to not just read a book, but actually experience it?

The set-up and premise is fairly straight forward but is sure to appeal to its target audience, particularly those who love books like the Alex Rider novels and similar tales of children having fantastic adventures.

Jake, Harriet, Ryan and Becca find themselves thrown together, their parents stolen away and imprisoned from them and facing a series of tasks ahead.

The sinister Cruella de Vil-alike, Kaufman visits them and tells them their mission, a mission they must undertake for the equally strange Crookshanks.  They are to go into classic books, into the stories themselves, via ‘rips’ that can be created by a gadget called the Nautilus (a reference to 20,000 Leagues under the Sea, of course).  The Nautilus allows its user to ‘travel in the here and now.  It also allows you to move about in the there and never was’.

Once inside the books they are to steal valuable artifacts from within them and bring them back to the outside world.  The first of these is the treasure map from Treasure Island, but there are constant references throughout to other great novels – many of which I’m sure will follow after the second title (also available now) The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.

There is a secondary challenge, however, and that is that the children have to ensure that they do nothing in the book that will have an affect on its ending, can do nothing that may change the path of the story and so, in this first title, they choose to try to replicate a copy of the map to leave behind.

Scattering other book titles along the way is a good move, there’s always a chance that the mention that ‘Dracula’ for someone who’s really into ghost stories is ‘brilliant. All that romance and intrigue…’ will be enough to cause a young reader to give it a go.

However, the brilliance here, is that with every underlined section of text, words of a song or mention of a section of the original text, that the reader can simply click and they are taken straight into the original Treasure Island.  Once there, they can choose to continue to read Treasure Island in full, or read a bit and then duck back out to the booksurfers tale, but there are enough comments made by the characters as to how much they loved the book to ensure that readers will be tempted time and time again to read some or all of the original novel.

Alternatively the reader can simply whizz through the great adventure story of the Booksurfers and they will still get a lot of the flavour and feel of Treasure Island and, when they reach the end, they’ll find that the complete Stevenson novel is there for them to enjoy too.

It’s a very clever idea.  Maybe it could be argued that the concept of characters running amok and creating their own stories outside of the ones written for them and reality crashing into fictional characters has been done before, with books such as the Inkheart series, but this is unique in the way it is executed and is sure to catch the imagination of the generation who rarely want to read anything unless it is on a screen and who would, otherwise, be increasingly unlikely to settle back and enjoy a classic.

So, it’s congrats all round –  a great start to an exciting adventure series and a bold and clever way of encouraging children to read some of the old stuff/good stuff too.

Highly recommended – it’s the first book I will gladly let my children borrow my kindle to read.

Get yourself over to amazon and get downloading Booksurfers now.

Keith

 

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